Posted inFilm

Pitfall

A grimy, superior film noir by Andre de Toth (1948). Dick Powell is a foursquare family man who enjoys a harmless dalliance with model Lizabeth Scott, unaware that he’s risking the wrath of a psychotically jealous private eye, Raymond Burr. An iconographical plus is Father Knows Best‘s Jane Wyatt as Powell’s patiently beleaguered wife.

Posted inFilm

Next Stop, Greenwich Village

Paul Mazursky’s onanistic autobiographical film (1976) seems more like a slavish hommage to Federico Fellini than a genuine reminiscence, borrowing equally from the Great Italian’s condescending caricature and slimy sentimentalism. As Larry Lapinsky, a Brooklyn boy come to the Village to learn acting, Lenny Baker spends most of the film fighting off his mother’s slobbering […]

Posted inFilm

Streamers

Sure it’s searing and intense, but so is a microwave oven. David Rabe’s play, about a barracks room of draftees waiting to be shipped to Vietnam, is a less than honorable piece of theater, relying on physical and psychological violence to keep the audience in a constant state of anxiety and submission; Robert Altman’s film […]

Posted inFilm

Irma La Douce

Billy Wilder’s soggy and uninspired 1963 adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, minus the songs. Shirley MacLaine stars as a Paris prostitute with a heart of gold who falls for a former policeman (Jack Lemmon) who winds up as her pimp and, in disguise, her only customer. A good example of how a movie can […]

Posted inFilm

The Woman Next Door

Certainly the coldest film ever made about l’amour fou, Francois Truffaut’s 1981 production fails to satisfy emotionally but contains some of his most creative direction post-Jules and Jim. It’s a very studied, very formal work in which a tale of fatal attraction (betweeen Gerard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant) becomes a study of the contrasting implications […]

Posted inFilm

The President’s Analyst

The 60s school of improvisational comedy is beautifully preserved in Theodore J. Flicker’s film, which pits LBJ’s shrink (James Coburn) against a plot for world dominance hatched by TPC (The Phone Company). The vague, shapeless paranoia of the period—a liberal distrust, rather than a radical disgust—is well conveyed through a series of barely connected skits, […]

Posted inFilm

The Turning Point

Herbert Ross continues the venerable tradition of butting ballet and melodrama in a story of two old rivals (Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft) squabbling over the artistic soul of MacLaine’s daughter (Leslie Browne). The musical question, as always (cf The Red Shoes), is whether to dance or to love. For a film ostensibly dedicated to […]